I rewatched Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to see how he handled pressure against the Saints. Garoppolo started off slowly, but really picked up his comfort level as the game continued.
Over his first ten passing plays, Garoppolo was 3 of 8 for 33 yards (all to tight end Martellus Bennett) and a pair of sacks. Over his second ten passing plays, Garoppolo was 8 of 10 for 124 yards. His 21st passing play was the fade to James White right before the half that fell incomplete.
I think that Garoppolo’s ability to handle pressure is increasingly important because of the opponents on his schedule. According to Football Outsiders, the Cardinals ranked 4th and the Bills ranked 5th in plays with a blitzing defensive back in 2015. The Texans ranked 24th and the Dolphins ranked 26th. (Don’t forget to check out the Football Outsiders Almanac here.)
I counted eight pressures on Garoppolo in the first half. One of those plays was a crosser to Bennett. The second was the slip screen to James White that went for 56 yards. The third led to his 4-yard scramble of 4th down where he forgot to slide and was leveled. The other five plays were less-than-spectacular.
Garoppolo was sacked twice. One was left tackle Nate Solder’s fault, although it was evident that Garoppolo didn’t feel the pressure at all. The other was Garoppolo’s fault as it appeared David Andrews forgot to slide to the left, which allowed a linebacker to penetrate, and Garoppolo ended up running backwards for a 14-yard loss.
Garoppolo threw two other passes into the ground in front of James Develin after a defensive back blitz. The final pass was a knucklehead throw into quadruple coverage in the middle of the field to Malcolm Mitchell.
“The throw over the middle was just an error throw,” Garoppolo said after the game. “It was just a bad decision; can't make it and won't do it in the future.”
The offensive line did a surprisingly good job of protecting Garoppolo in the first half, as the quarterback was 8 of 13 for 85 yards when unpressured. Half of the pressures were the result of a blitz, while another couple could have been avoided if he stepped up in the pocket.
The Cardinals and the Bills are going to blitz a lot so Garoppolo needs to improve when he faces an extra rusher. The Patriots saw that was a weakness against the Saints and the coaching staff will either have to find a way to compensate, or find a way for the young quarterback to improve.
Live action is good experience to see how a player reacts at full speed, and it was a good sign that Garoppolo improved after his first ten passing plays. Hopefully he can avoid the slow start against the Bears and that he can continue to develop as the Patriots starting quarterback.